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Robin Hoyle

Huthwaite International

Head of Learning Innovation at Huthwaite International

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Will happen or should happen?


This is the third year I’ve made a set of predictions about ‘what next in learning and development’ simply because the calendar clicked around another number in the year column.
Last year I reviewed my predictions for 2010 and found that I’d not done quite as well as I’d hoped.
(see here if you really want to know.)
Safe to say if I give you a hot tip for the Grand National, Champions League or the winner of the synchronised diving at the 2012 Olympics, keep your money in your pocket.
So, no predictions for 2012. What follows might happen, might not – who knows? I think what follows should happen:
Social Media in Learning takes its rightful place in the mix:
I know I’m slightly out of step on this, but I think the use of social media tools has been massively over hyped in 2011. In fact, 2011 was the year in which ‘social learning’ became the real story. Except there’s a problem here. Social Learning is something different. Social Learning is a well researched and generally understood concept which was developed in the 1960s by arguably the world’s greatest living psychologist, Albert Bandura. (Good primer here).
Yes, that’s right - the 1960s. Before twitter. Before facebook. Good heavens, in those dark, dark days before the internet!
Social tools (specifically those which seek to mimic the way we shop on line) do and should have a part to play in information sharing. Information sharing is a part of the learning process. But it is not the whole of the learning process. In fact, looking things up – especially when posted by others who may or may not have a reliable viewpoint – might not even be learning at all! I know. Shocking isn’t it?
Hopefully 2012 will see Bandura get the credit he deserves for revolutionary thinking. Hopefully, 2012 will see social media tools used appropriately as a small and valuable component of the learning process which is where they belong.
Going for Gold:
With the Olympics on the horizon, this will be the year of training programmes based around ‘being on the podium’; ‘achieving the gold standard’;  and teams being ‘fit to compete’.
It’s all very well and I urge fellow training professionals to brand their learning, but be aware of jumping on brand-wagons. I hope the Olympics are a great success, but come September, they’ll be over for another four years and the investment made in building the gold-infused training course will deliver pretty short term interest before it’s as interesting as last week’s athletics preview.
Less training, more often:
We must recognise the economic and commercial realities and how hard it is to find proper time to learn in modern organisations. This is particularly true if training equals day or days in group sessions.  There has been a constant battle between training teams and other departments over releasing people for training events. In some organisatons, the battle has been lost.
The challenge for the L&D function is the age old business paradox – how do we get more done with less? Advances in technology and a greater acceptance of learning as something which doesn’t always rely on the classroom will lead to shorter, more frequent training inputs. This buffet style approach to providing a multitude of different ways of reinforcing and explaining the same concepts seems to me to be suited to modern ways of taking in information and modern pressures on individuals in right-sized workplaces.
Comms should be different from training:
As we investigate providing bite-sized bits of learning, we need to differentiate between simply telling people stuff and our people learning how and what to do.
I accept that training has always included a bit of communications. Outlining the new strategy, the challenges facing the team, the new products or services offered has always been integral to the training mix. But this is simply context for learning, not learning itself. In the same way as simply reading someone’s blog doesn’t mean you’ve learned anything, communications need to be followed up with a learning process. Those communicated with need to consider the implications of what they’ve heard; the changes in behaviour required to make the new strategy/product or structure work; the skills which will enable that behaviour to become habitual and the knowledge needed to make sense of it all.
To be indispensable, training teams should be involved in all communications. They should analyse the needs of different teams to implement what is now required and they should have a plan which accompanies the comms, ensuring that what is communicated is actionable and drives the organisation forward.
My final wish/prediction for 2012 is...
L&D Becomes Strategic:
Strategic as in linked to strategy not just a euphemism for important.
I know we all say that L&D is a strategic partner but let’s be honest and acknowledge that other functions develop strategies quite independently of the L&D team and as a result, we are always playing catch up.
If each of your functions doesn’t have an L&D business partner they should have. If that partner isn’t in the loop when the strategy is being discussed to help each function recognise that actually training people to do what is required is important, then they should be.
The very best training programmes fit hand in glove with the strategy of the organisation and are developed so that once a strategy change is announced, the training team is primed and ready to help the poor, bloody infantry do what needs to be done.
Training should be about change. We are change agents and we should revel in that status.
Whatever you’re doing in 2012 – I sincerely hope it changes things for the better.

2 Responses

  1. You have to believe to achieve!


    I agree whole heartedly with your assertion that if those responsible for delivering effective and appropriate L&D are not embedded at a “molecular level” within all departments then it cannot be a surprise when operational managers later cry foul and accuse the HR/Training /L&D team for not supporting them or delivering what is required to meet business critical needs.

    As a consultant who has worked closely with companies trying to find a competitive edge and maximise revenues over the past twenty years I am still astonished by the divide between those with vision and the courage to “get behind their plan”, and those who are content to talk endlessly about how they can see exactly what’s wrong and what needs addressing – but when put on the spot, seem to come up with a seemingly endless list of reasons why they cannot proceed to action right now. Lack of budget, under prepared, lack of personnel, IT issues, conflicting agendas, uncertainty about the future, internal restructuring, cost saving….the list goes on an on.
    What it seems to boil down to is either a failure to understand what the critical success factors for their business are (and therefore align these to developmental needs) or a lack of faith in their own judgement. They can see clearly what needs to be done but by not following through with their own plan they demonstrate to the rest of the business their lack of belief and confidence that they can affect things at all. This message effectively says to the staff “we are a hostage to fortune – so why bother trying to make improvements”.
    As observers of competitive sport will testify “when asked “do you think you can win this race / game / event? “every competitor worth their salt will always back themselves and say YES! Even if they know what a huge challenge they have in front of them and that they odds are not in their favour they will generally say something like “If I thought I couldn’t win, why would I turn up?” You’ve got to believe in order to achieve.
    In business it seems too often that Captains / Managers say to their team mates / colleagues “we expect you to win / bring us more orders, increase profits, reduce costs etc” but when asked “do you think you can really achieve this and what resource are you prepared to invest as a show of personal belief and commitment?” they prefer to sit on the fence and take the risk averse approach. “If I don’t spend anything I can’t be accused of wasting resources even if I know that by doing nothing I’m not only failing to resolve the problems, I’m actively helping to foster a culture where apathy and avoidance of responsibility is the norm”
    It is a given that not all problems can be solved through training, and not all training is worthwhile, but it is equally true that in business, Managers or those responsible for the future success of their company and the staff within them are morally obliged to have the courage of their convictions and when it comes to matters of development,  at the very least should stop becoming an inhibitor to change and step aside to let other more ambitious individuals take up the baton and lead from the front.  
  2. Couldn’t agree more

    You mention culture and I am increasingly of the opinion that the success or failure of any and all initiatives – especially around people development – is dependent on the supportive nature of the surrounding culture.  Anti-change culture (however manifest) = no change.  Pro-change culture = not a guarantee but at least there is a sporting chance that something might happen.

    Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

Author Profile Picture
Robin Hoyle

Head of Learning Innovation at Huthwaite International

Read more from Robin Hoyle

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